Archive for the ‘Madams’ Category

OutoftheEasyThere is this atmosphere in New Orleans. The heat and heavy humidity. The moss draped over the branches of ancient trees. The galleries on the second floors of homes. The excesses that mark everyday life. The permissiveness known but rarely discussed. 1950s New Orleans is captured wonderfully in Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys and anyone who has been to New Orleans can picture the scene.

Any book that starts with “My mother is a prostitute. Not the filthy, streetwalking kind.” has something to offer. The narrator, Josie, named after a Madam, is seventeen. She’s been on her own since age seven, sleeping above the bookstore in which she works. She also works every morning cleaning up the night’s remainders after the girls at Willie’s brothel, where her mother works when she isn’t running away with Cincinatti, a dangerous but petty thief.

When the sophisticated and handsome Forrest L. Hearne, Jr. (in from Tennessee for the Sugar Bowl) enters the bookstore and engages her in intellectual conversation, she puts him on the list of fantasy fathers. When he is found dead the next day of an apparent heart attack, she feels something is wrong.

Josie’s longing to leave the Big Easy, disassociate herself with her past, is her overriding goal. She is smart and college is a dream spurred on by an acquaintance, Charlotte, who attends Smith and prods Josie to apply. But how do you leave your mother who is up to her eyeballs in the Hearne affair? How do you leave the gruff but benevolent Willie or the ‘nieces’ in her house? And Cokie, the cab driver who befriended them when they arrived in New Orleans.

There are all kinds of characters in New Orleans and they appear in Out of the Easy; the ones you hate and the ones you love. Sepetys’ writing is vivid. Her story is engrossing. Her characters are your friends. It’s three months into the new year and already my Top 10 lists has a lot of candidates. I’m betting Out of the Easy will make the final cut. It’ll be that easy!

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